Fix Your Crappy Diet


If you are fat, you can bet it’s your own fault, but you can do something about it. It’s not a matter of switching to low-carb ice cream, or getting onion rings instead of French fries, either. And if you’re thinking of “doing” Adkins or South Beach, or the Peanut M&M diet (I am not shitting you, there really is one), you are lost.

See, making significant changes in your diet requires a “chronic” rather than “acute” adaptation. If you are getting fat at the average rate of 2-3 pounds a year, you’re on a deadly path.

We’re not just worried about looking good naked, either. And if you’re a parent, you’re not the only one that’s going to die early because of your nutritional choices.

Do you know that kids exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke DAILY have fewer health problems than kids who eat fast food more than 4 times a week?  Do you know that the average American kid now eats at McDonalds (not just any fast food) three times per week?

OK, so back to you. My job is to plan and implement training programs for athletes and to build fat loss plans for those who want to get skinny. I used to say that 50% of fat loss was diet. I blew it. I’d say that number is more like 90%.

One of the first things that come up with many of my clients when we start talking nutrition is what to eat when they eat out. Well, water’s pretty harmless, but beyond that you’re on your own.

Instead of figuring out which fried sandwich has fewer calories, let’s try to make some real changes that you can stick with. Here are four things you can do starting today (and continuing for the rest of your life) that will make a real difference in how fat are, and in how fat your family will be.

1.         Balance carbohydrates with protein. OK, so you don’t have the mettle to quit sugar. How about this: every time you eat carbohydrates, you eat an equal amount of protein. Want a cookie? Eat an egg with it. Eating pasta? Load up on the meat sauce. I know eggs and cookies sounds gross, but maybe not as gross as being so fat you’re not able to wipe your own butt…

2.         Get rid of the juice. But juice is fruit right? Wrong. It’s Pepsi without the bubbles. Bottom line is you shouldn’t ever drink a calorie. This includes energy drinks, Gatorade, and your precious glass of wine (or five) with dinner.

3.         Plan. That’s right, think ahead. Plan out what you’ll eat each day before you’re  starving.  Studies show that people who plan what they are going to eat are 4-6% thinner than those who don’t.

4.         Get real. Come to grips with the fact that the tasty treats you shovel in are holding you back in a big way. As soon as you really can get your head around the damage you’re doing to your body, avoiding bad food becomes easy. It’s a simple switch as soon as you can associate good eating with pleasure and being a fat, weak slob with pain. In fact, as soon as you decide to eat right, you’re there. It’s just that you are no good at making decisions…just stating preferences.

What you’re doing now is not working. You’re dying fast and getting uglier, so you’d better be willing to make some tough choices. Take control of your life, even if it’s the first time you ever have. Start eating right, and the rest of fitness becomes a snap.  -SB


01-06 154

We all have limited time. Traditional, simplistic exercise recommendations call for 3 hours of “activity” a week, plus a couple of weight training sessions lasting about an hour. This is great if you don’t have anything else to do. Here at the gym, most of our athletes are lucky to grab an hour a day, and that includes getting to the gym, working out, showering, and getting back to work.

Is it a waste of time to exercise for just 30 minutes? 20? 10?

Not at all. Volume and intensity are the two main attributes of any workout. Volume is how much you do and intensity is how hard you do it. Overwhelming evidence suggests that intensity is far more important to health, longevity, and weight loss than volume is.

The real key to progress in your training is not to go longer on your workouts, but to get more done in less time. If you walk for an hour, you might cover 4 miles. But if you run very fast, you can cover that same distance in half the time. Your net work is exactly the same (about 400 calories), but you saved yourself 30 minutes.

Even better, intense exercise has a profound effect on metabolism, making it the ONLY choice for people who’d like to lose weight.

Turn it up a notch this winter, and look for great results. For tips on how to do this, feel free to ask any of our trainers, or check out one of our new class offerings. Burly Girls and The Program are great ways to push your fitness up a level.

Kill Your Old Cardio Workout


In the old days, we did “cardio.” We thought the “fat-burning zone” really worked, and we wasted a ton of our most precious resource, time, plodding away on cardio machines.

Trainers used to have you do three sets of ten on a half-dozen isolation exercises Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and do an hour of this “cardio” the other days.

This was standard prescription for about 20 years…the same 20 years that the obesity epidemic grew to full-size.

If you get good results, and avoid going bonkers cruising on an elliptical for 60 minutes at a time, read no further. But if you are like me, and two minutes on a treadmill seems like two hours, give this little trick a try:

1.          Get warmed up. I mean warm. Take five minutes, starting at your “fat-burning” zone, and speed up slowly throughout the five minutes until you are at a VERY fast pace near the end.

2.          Stand around for 2 minutes. Get a drink (of water).

3.          Jump on the elliptical, get it going at a medium resistance level, and then race it up to 200 strides per minute for about 30 seconds. Slow down for a minute, and then repeat three more times.

4.          Stand around for 2 moreminutes.

5.          Get on the stair machine, starting at a normal, easy pace.

6.          After you’ve burned 5 calories, increase the level by 1, burn 5 more calories, and repeat until you are no longer on the machine. It shouldn’t take long.

7.          Hit the showers.

This is neither boring nor ineffective. You’ll be done in way less than an hour, will have burned off some of those Thin Mints, and you probably won’t even feel bad about being out of the gym so quickly.

Shelli Johnson's Fitness Journey

This is POST 9 of my “fitness journey” blogging. For backstory, see Post 1,
Post 2Post 3Post 4Post 5Post 6Post 7 and Post 8.]



Probably a better headline for this post would be:GETTING FIT IS HARD TO DO.

It has been almost 6 months since I decided to get out of my sedentary rut and back into good physical condition.

In late March, I hired personal trainer Steve Bechtel and joined Elemental Gym. I also broke up with bread, potatoes, pasta, French fries, ice cream and cookies. I gave up “sleeping in” until 5:30 am , instead opting to go to the gym at 4:30 am three times a week. I let go of my previous thinking that you had to log significant time in “fat burning zone” on a treadmill or elliptical trainer several times a week or go jogging several miles a week in order to lose fat and weight. And, I made sure to work out even whenI’m traveling.

I’m happy to report that at my third weigh-in, body fat check and strength testing today, it’s all paid off. In six months, I’ve lost 23 pounds, 12.4% bodyfat, and increased my strength and endurance. I’ve climbed the Grand Teton and completed several 20-mile-plus mountain dayhikes that I completed with leftover fuel in the tank and no sore muscles or injuries. Also, for all of you who are afraid and concerned that strengthening and high intensity gym work will make you “bulkier,” which I too was concerned about – it’s simply not true. I’ve gotten significantly stronger while losing literally inches in my arms and legs.

Shelli-6mthFitnessStats, 9.15.09

By far, the most important and significant result of the past six months of hard work and getting fit is the fact that today I am a new person: a happy, healthy, fit and more energetic one.

My husband, Jerry, with our three young sons, Wolf, Fin and Hayden, ages 9, 2 and 7. We lead an active, outdoorsy life. I'd like to keep it that way.

My husband, Jerry, with our three young sons, Wolf, Fin and Hayden, ages 9, 2 and 7. We lead an active, outdoorsy life. I’d like to keep it that way.

What is this worth?
A lot. For almost four years, up until this past March, I was going to bed each night with an enormous amount regret and self criticism that in my head that went something like this: “I’m so out of shape. I can’t believe I’ve let myself go. I can’t do everything I want to do because I’m getting heavier, and lazier, less confident, and less ambitious. I’m embarrassed. I must look lazy. Why did I quit working out? Why did I eat that ice cream? Why did I not work again today?” And the list went on and on.

This happened every night as I lay awake during the last moments of each day. These thoughts weighed heavily on me, and I feel certain they took away from the quality of my life for a period of three or four years.

Also I remember in early March a walk I went on with a good friend around what we call the “Tomato Loop,” which is basically a 3-mile country loop route that is accessed from town. I was telling her that I had about “20 to 25 pounds to lose” to get back in tip-top shape and to what I figured was my ideal weight, my “most healthy” weight.

It was daunting to me even to hear myself utter those words because 20-25 pounds is a significant amount of weight. And I didn’t think I would have the patience to see it through. I was sure it would take a couple of years to lose that much. Impatience is probably my single biggest shortcoming. Having to endure two more years before I would realize my desired weight loss, well, wasn’t something I accepted easily. Talk about pain. What I was talking about would be hard in every aspect. It would cost me emotionally, physically, financially. And it would cost me my time, which as a mother of three young sons, I place the highest of values on.

And yet, six months later, I stand here today having achieved that goal. Those nagging regrets and the self criticism I used to confront myself with every night before going to sleep are now gone.

But as Steve sometimes reminds me in our conversations, results may vary.You know the sayings: You get out what you put in. Garbage in, garbage out. You do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. Nothing worthwhile comes easy.

The only reason I have been successful in just six months’ time is because I attacked the problem from all angles. Two facts I was 100% clear about when I consulted Steve and ETC for the first time on March 21: I’m impatient, and I’m not afraid of hard work. The fitness regimen that I have embarked upon capitalizes on these two realities. And I knew if I did my part – made sacrifices and did a bunch of hard work – then it would be possible for me to achieve my goal in a shorter amount of time.

I adjusted my diet to include only healthy foods and decreased the number of calories I consumed to 10% of my body weight. I worked out 5-6 days a week, including high intensity in just about every session. I remained accountable and committed. For me, hiring a personal trainer helps significantly with this aspect. Having some form of “contractual” agreement has the effect of being more binding.

Steve talks to me often about the need for commitment when it comes to fitness and our health. He tells me how Elemental Gym’s membership experiences cycles. That it’s uncommon to have members that stay committed throughout the year. We are masters at procrastinating when it comes to our health.

We all know how the story goes. Most of us have lived it before; it’s not unique. Something else always gets in the way. For a few months of the year, or a half of a year, or for several years, for whatever reason, many of us will demote fitness to the bottom of, or off of our, list of priorities, despite the fact that our health and care for it can extend and add vitality to our lives.

In my case, my husband and I have three young sons. We lead an active, outdoorsy life – and I want to keep it that way. It’s important to me that I’m able to keep up with them and “play” with them whether it’s wrestling with them on the floor, climbing mountains or snowboarding with them. Heck I have my own goals, too, like doing more 50k trail-running events and long, epic dayhikes and mountain climbs. I want to be an enthusiastic, energetic and confident wife and mother. And, I want to have as much drive as possible to perform my work. (Weight and fat loss, or improving our time in an event, are things we think of first when we think of getting more fit and working out hard, regularly. But I would argue the increase in energy, positive attitude adjustment and confidence are the real benefits)

When I think of how I was feeling last March, following a four-year slump in my fitness, and consider what I’ve accomplished since then, whatever this feeling is I have now is the exact opposite of regret.

I’m pretty certain that if I hadn’t made the bold changes that I did, beginning on March 23, I would not be on the floor dog-piling and wrestling with our three young sons, or racing them at the playground. I would be taking all these frolicking times sitting down, in passive, “spectator” mode. And what a gigantic bummer that would be, not only for them, but for me.

My four boys. I want to be able to do anything our boys do. And not be injured as a result of it!

My four boys. I want to be able to do anything our boys do. And not be injured as a result of it!

Here are some of my favorite quotes related to regrets, that I think are relevant to our delaying, or not, becoming fit and healthy:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do…” (Mark Twain)

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.” (Sydney Smith)

“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.” (Mercedes Lackey)

“You never regret working out.” (local friend and ETC member Deborah Ellis)

We can’t get time back. The health benefits of keeping physically fit are reported everywhere with scientific, supporting data. We all know being fit and healthy is good for us. And yet we so often don’t value its importance. Probably, because it’s hard work.

Giving up French fries, ice cream, chips, cookies and candy has been very difficult. Getting up at 4:30 am three mornings a week is hard. Doing high intensity strengthening and metabolic training with Steve Bechtel is not easy. Staying committed and eating right and still finding time to work out when I travel, which is often, is inconvenient. In fact, everything related to what I committed to six months ago when I embarked on this “fitness journey” is hard.

But I would argue that trying to live the life I want to lead, but not being able to, is even harder.

And even harder yet is knowing what changes need to be made to have the life you want, and yet not making those changes.

In summary, I am no expert, and far from perfect on the topic of physical fitness and weight loss. And I still have the task of remaining committed, even after having reached my initial goals. Being fit, after all, is a life-long journey, not an event. Also important for me to mention is my sincere thanks to my family and friends, Steve and ETC trainers, for their support. Without it, my fitness journey would be even more difficult.

Elemental Gym has a fantastic gym, some terrific programs and classes that will help you achieve better fitness. And, I might add, some great personal trainers: Steve BechtelEllen BechtelJagoe Reid, and Sophie Mosemann.